A Digital Menu Board Content Rant – Keep it simple!

As a digital marketing executive myself, I am always looking for new and innovative ways to upsell, highlight and promote new products to both new and existing customers. With so many new and interesting technology-based solutions available to achieve this, it can be hard to keep things simple.
A Digital Menu Board Content Rant – Keep it simple!

Oftentimes, as marketers, we feel that the best way to accomplish a marketing goal is by using the “wow factor” to get people’s attention. By “wow factor” I mean doing things that are new, BIG, different, immersive, and hard to miss even if you try.

Now while there is a time and place for this type of strategy, I feel the need to caution marketers and digital signage operators against doing this with Digital Menu Boards in restaurants and QSRs (in restaurants, and drive-through). Below I will talk about my most recent QSR drive-through experience and explain why I suggest that marketers resist the urge to create that “wow factor” and keep it simple when it comes to digital menu board content and strategy.

My recent experience

It was a warm summer night and I had just finished playing golf outside of the city, about 45 minutes away from where I live. As usual, the golf game took longer than expected and I was running late to get home to my wife. I asked myself, should I just go straight home and try to put together a small and very late dinner from what was left in the fridge? Or, should I pop into the drive-through of my favorite fast-food restaurant and grab a little something to eat on the way home? It had been so long since I treated myself to some fast food from my favorite QSR chain, and it was right there on my way home, so I decided to go for it.

It was fairly late at night and the lineup for the drive-through was very short so within a few seconds of arriving, I was already at the ordering area before having had the chance to look at the menu. Now, it is worth noting that this fast-food chain has long been one of the best-known in the world and I knew their menu fairly well prior to arriving on that day. The ordering experience that followed, while not a total disaster, left me feeling annoyed and frustrated, and eventually lead me to want to write this short blog post. Here’s why:

Let the frustrations begin

When I arrived at the ordering area, a voice quickly came on the speaker and said ‘Welcome, can I take your order’? At that moment, the actual menu (items, combo’s, prices) was not showing on the drive through digital menu board. Instead, I was watching the end of a promotional video for a new product being sold at that restaurant (a product I had no interest in ordering).

I asked the person on the other end of the microphone to please give me a second to come up with my order. Then, instead of the digital menu board transitioning into the full menu of the restaurant’s items, it started playing a new layout of animated content that included only a very small subset of the items available to order. While the content now on screen looked nice and was well constructed and animated, I thought to myself, ‘this can’t be the whole menu can it’?

As someone who has been in the digital signage software industry for 13+ years now, I started thinking about digital signage content strategy right there as a person who was patiently waiting for me to make my order. A few more seconds went by until I was interrupted, ‘SIR, are you there?’ the voice said impatiently. At this point, I had still not seen the entire menu of available items but I felt the need to say something, so I quickly ordered something that I know they carry and moved on.

As I drove home that night, I couldn’t help escape the thought that this particular QSR completely failed me as a customer by trying too hard to create that innovative ‘wow factor’ I mentioned at the start of this article. In my opinion, had the full menu of available products been on screen when I pulled up to the ordering area (and remained on the screen until my order was complete) I would have been a much happier customer. I have seen the same mistakes made with indoor digital menu boards as well.

Lessons learned

The lesson here is that in many situations when it comes to digital signage, we must be careful not to lose sight of the actual goal of the digital signage itself. Be sure to understand the difference between entertainment and utility and decide which one you absolutely must achieve and which you can incorporate as ‘nice to haves’ when possible.

As marketers and content creators, we are always looking for cool and innovative ways to get our message across. However, as marketers, we must also be careful to ensure that our innovations don’t actually harm the customer experience at the same time. In this case, the goal of the indoor and drive-through digital menu boards was to increase sales, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect on me. Not only was I not interested in learning about the latest products for sale by this restaurant, but the ordering experience also left me feeling rushed, disoriented, and dissatisfied. The food however was still delicious 😊.

Action items

When I finally got home, I was still bothered by how digital signage (an industry and product category I know and love) actually made my experience worse. So, I wrote a short list of things to remember when creating digital signage content for digital menu boards and here it is:

  • Make the content visually appealing but KEEP IT SIMPLE.
  • Remember, digital displays are there for customers to see the menu and order what they want.
  • In a quick-service restaurant, the ordering process needs to be QUICK.
  • Avoid full-screen video takeovers where the menu is not visible for more than 5 seconds.
  • Instead, place your video advertising in a section of the main menu screen so that both play simultaneously.
  • Your digital menu boards are not there to attract new customers. They are there to help your existing customers get what they want.

While the above account of my recent experience applies to digital menu boards and fast-food restaurants, I often find myself having similarly annoying digital signage experiences in other situations like in the airport for example. Similar to a digital menu board, an airline’s flight status boards are there to inform and not necessarily to entertain. Have you ever been rushing through an airport with no time to spare, frantically looking for your flight number or departure status only to find that the screens that normally show this information are currently in the middle of playing a full-screen advertisement? It can be incredibly frustrating and counterproductive.

The Navori Labs solution to this problem:

QL is the award-winning, intuitive Digital Signage Software platform by Navori Labs. QL includes built-in, data-driven content-triggering features that are very easy to configure and deploy regardless of technical skill level. Here is how data-driven content triggering can be used to avoid the annoying fast-food restaurant and airport examples discussed above:

  • Have a sensor or camera near your digital menu board, or transportation status board that can detect when a person is standing in front of the screen.
  • Use the data produced by your camera or sensor in real-time to automatically decide what content should be on screen at any moment, for example:
    • If a person is present, continue to play the critical information (full menu, full flight data)
    • If nobody is present, play your advertising loop, until the next person is present.

Learn more about this type of context-aware content triggering HERE

smart content automation infographic

In conclusion

In the end, we must be able to determine what the primary goal of any digital signage screen or deployment is, and respect it. I should be clear, there is still a place for visually appealing ‘wow factor’ advertising and promotion within utilitarian/informational digital signage content (digital menu boards, transportation status boards, conference room scheduling displays, etc.), I’m just saying that we need to be careful not to forget what the screens are actually there for which is to provide clear and concise information to the people that need it quickly.

About Navori Labs

Navori Labs, a Swiss software innovator, delivers premium digital signage and AI-driven marketing analytics solutions to businesses and organizations worldwide.

What differentiates our software is the fact it’s developed by our own team of engineers. For the last 20 years, Navori Labs has steadily invested in research and development. This lets us bring to market unique products that outperform other software solutions. It’s also why we back our products with professional maintenance contracts and support services.

We pay a lot of attention to our software’s simplicity, user-friendliness, and ease of use. Our software is designed for non-technical users, under the expert guidance of our in-house artistic director.

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